Between January 11-31, 2019, the Brazilian Navy (MB, in Portuguese), conducted Operation Aspirantex 2019, in the maritime area between Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and Montevideo, Uruguay. One objective of the exercise was to train Naval Academy cadets for life at sea and the routines aboard a ship.
About 2,000 service members, including 319 Naval Academy cadets, participated in the 2019 edition of Aspirantex. For 20 days, MB service members and cadets performed various military exercises, such as operations with aircraft; underway replenishment of fuel; tactical maneuvers between ships; and shooting and firefighting exercises to improve the training of MB’s naval and aerial assets.
“The 2,000 service members are part of the ship crews that comprise the Task Group, the aerial detachment aboard (aircraft), the Combat Divers’ Group detachment, and the Navy’s Second Division, which planned and coordinated the operation,” said MB Rear Admiral Fernando Ranauro Cozzolino, commander of Aspirantex 2019’s Task Group. “The participating cadets attend the Naval Academy’s first, second, and third years.”
According to the commander, the training targets each academic year of the Naval Academy. “The first-year cadets had an unprecedented experience as a large committee at sea. Second-year students were able to follow operational exercises and exchange experiences with officers and noncommissioned officers from the ships, which helped them select the corps they will join at the end of the second year. Third-year cadets followed a specific program with activities based on the qualifications they chose: arms, machinery, and electronics,” he said.
“The big challenge for all Task Group crew members was to show cadets our passion for the profession and the capability of our ships and personnel,” said Rear Adm. Cozzolino. “[We must] inspire them by example and the dedication to the work, to be seamen.”
Vessels taking part in Aspirantex 2019 navigated 4,600 nautical miles (about 8,500 kilometers), and carried out some 90 different exercises. Those included shooting a floating target, air operations, movement under enemy threats, tactical maneuvers, and ship-to-ship transfer—where ships navigate side-by-side to transfer cargo—as well as an accident-response exercise during a simulated fire in a ship compartment.
“An important activity we performed was aerial threat and attack, to prepare the operative group for defense against fixed-wing aircraft attack, while the ships used radars and anti-aircraft defense systems to detect and counter threats,” said Rear Adm. Cozzolino. During the exercise, Brazilian Air Force AMX fighters, and MB AF-1 fighters simultaneously attacked MB ships. “The combination of ship and naval air assets allowed for the exercises to be flexible and diverse, and promoted a more complete training for the MB’s ships, aircraft, and crew members.”
The operation used six MB aircraft: SH-16 anti-submarine helicopters, general purpose UH-15s, general purpose UH-12s, and AF-1 interceptors. Some of FAB’s aircraft also participated: P-95 patrol aircraft, anti-submarine P-3AM, and A-1 fighters. The participating ships were: The mltipurpose helicopter carrier (PHM, in Portuguese) Atlântico, taking part in Aspirantex for the first time; the tank landing ship Almirante Sabóia; the Rademaker and Independência frigates, and the Júlio de Noronha corvette.
For Rear Adm. Cozzolino, Aspirantex 2019 had a positive outcome and met its goal. “We performed all the scheduled exercises and conducted meaningful training for our assets and personnel, and we motivated the cadets, who are the future of our Navy, by increasing their knowledge on our warships’ routines during operations at sea.”
Navigation in foreign waters
Aspirantex included a stop at the Port of Montevideo, Uruguay, where cadets visited the Uruguayan Naval Museum and exchanged experiences with Uruguayan Navy cadets. “Brazil and Uruguay share a strong brotherhood and bringing our ships to Montevideo further strengthened the ties between our countries and their navies,” said Rear Adm. Cozzolino. “This edition was a milestone for PHM Atlântico’s first trip to a foreign port, after her incorporation into MB.”
“To get to know cadets from the Uruguayan Navy, their routine, and culture, was an excellent opportunity, as we also learned about some of the history and roots of this friendly navy,” said cadet Richard Willian Ferreira Freitas, a second-year student at the Naval Academy. For cadets, the operation is akin to an internship for college students. “This is when we put theory into practice, expanding the knowledge and also observing officers’ activities aboard.”
“The routine during an operational committee is hectic, as we carry out exercises all day and night,” said the cadet. “When I was not taking part in an exercise, I attended lectures on naval career topics. In addition, we had daily physical and military training to maintain physical health.”
The cadet pointed out that the diverse assets used in the operation made the experience even more complete. “There were surface warfare simulations, anti-aircraft war, and others, where assets cooperate with one another,” he said.